Thursday, April 17, 2008

Government Green ICT Procurement

Since I was on my way to Queensland to talk to people about Green ICT, I thought I would look at what the government there was doing about sustainability in procurement. The Queensland Government uses the Government Information Technology Contracting Framework (GITC V5) for procurement of computers and services. The GITC, which is much the same as used by other Australian governments, does not have much to say on sustainability. But there is now also a chapter on Operational Concept – Sustainable procurement in the State Procurement Policy.

The sustainable procurement policy just sets out general principles, there are no specific targets, for example on recycling of computers or energy efficiency. The Standard GITC Clauses– Reference Sheet, includes a requirement for US EPA Energy Star energy efficiency:

5. Clause to be included in invitation document on energy
efficiency.

In keeping with the Queensland government’s commitment to the National Greenhouse Strategy/Government Energy Management Policy, where possible, office equipment supplied under this arrangement or against a Government purchase order must comply with the US EPA Energy Star or power management features and must be supplied in its enabled state where technically feasible. ...

From: Standard GITC Clauses– Reference Sheet, Queensland Government, 12/09/2005

This is similar to what is in the "Measures to Support Environmentally Friendly ICT"
report from AGIMO. Australian Government departments and agencies are already required to purchase only office equipment that complies with the US Environment Protection Agency Energy Star standard (subject to it being fit for purpose). This includes ICT products. However, what is lacking is a specific version of the Energy Star system being specified, promotion of the policy and a way to monitor to what extent the policy is being implemented.

It is likely that many CIOs in federal and state governments would be unaware of the policy and would be unlikely to be getting regular reports on compliance and energy use. Where computer systems are networked, it should be possible to monitor compliance in near real time, via the network, rather than having procurement officers filling in paperwork. The federal and state governments could interrogate their systems to see how much power is being used and what the power saving status of the system is at any time.

As I detailed in my talk on Carbon Neutral Computing, for the ACS recently, purchase of energy efficient computer systems can also save money. Perhaps this is something the new review of the Australian Government's management of information and communication technology (ICT) by of of Sir Peter Gershon might look at. New hardware designs can lower the capital cost of equipment and also better system design can lower the need for equipment, as well as making systems easier to use.

The Queensland sustainability policy contains some useful definitions, but does not have much to say on ICT. There are some difficult issues for ICT procurement. As an example, it would be tempting to reuse old computers to save on materials use and save money. But old computers are likely to be energy inefficient and cost more to maintain. In most cases it will likely be better to scrap old computers and buy new ones (like scrapping an old fridge, not using it out the back as a bar fridge):

Sustainable procurement means that when buying goods and services organisations practicing sustainable procurement
will consider:

  • strategies to avoid unnecessary consumption and manage demand
  • minimising environmental impacts of the goods and services over the
    whole-of-life of the goods and services
  • suppliers’ socially responsible practices including compliance with legislative obligations to employees
  • value for money over the whole-of-life of the goods and services, rather
    than just initial cost.

Queensland Government agency procurement decisions
should encompass the consideration of goods and services which have a lower
impact on the environment and human health than competing goods and services
from suppliers, and which are ethically and socially responsible in value for
money considerations.

Elements of sustainable procurement
The procurement of environmentally preferable goods and services is a key activity in implementing sustainable procurement. Environmentally preferable or ‘green’ goods and services are those that have a lower impact on the environment over the life cycle of the good or service, when compared with competing goods or services
serving the same purpose.

This comparison may consider the source of raw materials, production, manufacturing, packaging, distribution, potential for reuse and recycling, operation, maintenance or disposal of the product. These may include, but are not limited to:

  • energy and water efficient products and services
  • products using less packaging or with provision for packaging take-back
  • reduced waste products made from recycled or re-manufactured materials
  • the use of renewable resources
  • reduced hazardous waste
  • reduced toxic and hazardous substances.

...

From: Operational Concept – Sustainable procurement, State Procurement Policy, Queensland Government

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